FBI misused a high-tech surveillance tool on Jan. 6 suspects and even Campaign Donors more than 278,000 times

May 30, 2023 | FBI, weaponizing government

It is pretty scary when the FBI keeps on inserting itself into elections. The FBI has interfered with every election from 2016 on. The fact that they used surveillance on 19,000 donors to a Republican congressional candidate’s campaign is very troubling. There doesn’t appear to be any evidence that anyone was disciplined for these various misuses of surveillance.

The FBI has misused a powerful digital surveillance tool more than 278,000 times, including against crime victims, Jan. 6 riot suspects, people arrested at protests in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, and — in one case — 19,000 donors to a congressional candidate, according to a newlyunsealed court document. . . .

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees Section 702, has pressured the FBI to address the problems, writing in the April 2022 opinion that was unsealed Friday that if the agency doesn’t perform better, the court will crack down and order its own changes to FBI practices. . . .

In a different incident, an FBI analyst “conducted a batch query for over 19,000 donors to a congressional campaign” because the analyst said the campaign was “a target of foreign influence,” the opinion said. But Justice Department officials found in an audit that “only eight identifiers used in the query” — often a name, phone number or an email address — “had sufficient ties to foreign influence activities” to comply with FISA standards. It’s not clear what, if anything, was done with the information collected.

Officials said the candidate in question did not ultimately win a seat in Congress, and the incident was distinct from an instance in which Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) said FISA surveillance wrongly targeted him. . . .

Devlin Barrett, “FBI misused surveillance tool on Jan. 6 suspects, BLM arrestees and others,” Washington Post, May 19, 2023.